more on databases and publications

James Gair jwg2 at CORNELL.EDU
Mon Apr 23 19:07:19 UTC 2007

I, too, have been following the series with interest. I have nothing  
to add except to express my strong agreement with what Nigel says. He  
has in fact said what i would have hoped to say, but said it better.  
As he and others have noted, databases and corpora differ widely on  
what went into them in terms of preparation and  original analysis.  
It is foolish and shortsighted to have a disincentive for young  
scholars to engage in work that may well (and often does) have a more  
lasting value than a paper applying the latest theoretical twist,  
though that, too, should not be undervalued.

Thank you, Nigel, Martin, and the others who have engaged on whatever  
side in this valuable discussion.

James W. Gair
professor Emeritus of linguistics
Cornell University

On Apr 23, 2007, at 11:25 AM, nigel Vincent wrote:

> A couple of quick points following on from Martin's comment on my  
> message. First off, just to be clear, the words he puts in direct  
> quotes -– viz "all that counted for reputational and career  
> advancement purposes was publications (whether in electronic or  
> printed journals), not the electronic or other resources that  
> underlie and give rise to them" – are mine not those of the NWO.  I  
> believe they are an accurate paraphrase of the NWO's guidance on  
> this point but others might challenge that.
> More substantial is the second point, namely the suggestion that  
> databases can be recategorised as 'publications' and that the fault  
> lies with us as a profession not the funding councils.  It is  
> certainly possible either to redefine the term 'publication' or  
> find a more generic label to cover the things that we produce. The  
> British RAE chooses the latter course and invites all academics to  
> choose their four best 'outputs' within the assessment period. The  
> term 'output' explicitly covers a huge variety of things in  
> addition to books and articles, e.g.  databases, corpora,  
> collections of digitised manuscripts or other artefacts, films,  
> symphonies, recordings of concerts or of theatre performance, and  
> many more. I think, however, my point  still holds. As I understand  
> it, the NWO will not admit any of these but only recognises  books  
> and articles as evidence of scholarly achievement, and this is a  
> policy decision on their part that cannot be circumvented by  
> redesignating things as 'publications' but only by tackiling head  
> on, if we are so minded, the issue of what kinds of work should  
> count in evaluating the career progression of academics and the  
> success of academic departments (on which sustained core funding  
> depends).
> The issue is not a simple one and I don't for a moment believe  
> there is unanimity out there. If the UK and the Netherlands  
> represent two extremes in this respect, where do the funding bodies  
> of other countries stand? At the individual level, I know very good  
> linguists (and not just in the Netherlands!) who believe the NWO  
> stance is the right one, and others who sharply disagree. My  
> purpose was simply to raise this aspect of the question for  
> discussion.
> Nigel
> P.S. My apologies to Gideon for misspelling his surname in my last  
> post.
> Professor Nigel Vincent FBA
> Associate Vice President for Graduate Education
> Mailing address:    School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures
>                                   University of Manchester
>                                   Manchester M13 9PL
>                                   United Kingdom
> Tel:                           +44-161-275-3194
> Fax:                          +44-161-275-3031
> email:                      nigel.vincent at
> webpage:     

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